If you’re driving along I-10 from Jacksonville to Lake City and want to take a break by taking a hike, this interpretive trail in the Osceola National Forest provides an interesting spot to stretch your legs – the trailhead is at the Sanderson Rest Area westbound. This walk boasts colorful and detailed signage to orient you to the habitats of the forest, including the pine woods, seepage bogs, floodplain forest, and cypress domes.
Length: 1.1 miles
Lat-Long: 30.255250, -82.401619
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: moderate
Follow I-10 west from the US 90 / Sanderson exit towards Lake City to get to the westbound rest area, which also is a visitor center for the Osceola National Forest. From the showy sign out front, follow the stenciled frogs on the sidewalk through the restroom building and out the back through the trucker’s parking lot to the gate that marks the trailhead for the Fanny Bay Trail.
Follow the yellow frog markers stenciled on the concrete walkway of the rest area to lead you back to a gap in the fence behind the rest area. Here the trail begins in earnest. At the T with an old limestone road (well graded for motorized wheelchairs), turn left to walk through a pine plantation.
Along the way, there are numerous colorful interpretive signs to inform you of the habitats you’re passing through. After you cross a culvert, the trail turns sharply to the right and comes up to the boardwalk at 0.3 mile into Fanny Bay, a floodplain forest of bay, sweetgum, maple, and cypress.
The boardwalk winds through the swamp, providing up close views of ferns, fungi, and the stumps of old cypresses logged out decades ago. Watch for an unusual double-trunked cypress.
The boardwalk ends at a observation platform with benches. Here is the Holy Grail of the hike—a massive ancient cypress you’ll see on the right as you turn around to retrace your steps. The swamp looks different from this direction; watch for birds flitting between understory plants. When you exit the boardwalk, retrace your path to return to the rest area.